Last Saturday night was quite a scene a Mizzou Arena, a scene that has not been especially common during the arena’s seven-year history, but one that appears to be becoming more frequent.
Before another sellout crowd, with all of the remaining home games at or near sellout status, Missouri (17-3, 3-2 in Big 12 play) overwhelmed Iowa State, 87-54. The crowd was loud and involved. The Tiger defense, which has struggled in spots, held the Cyclones to 27.1 percent shooting, and a subterranean 18.2 percent (4 of 22) on three-pointers. Missouri even dominated the glass, outrebounding Iowa State 55 to 35.
Iowa State is clearly a rebuilding program in the first year under coach Fred Hoiberg. The Cyclones have several good players coming for next year, but for now they lack depth. Iowa State had only eight players play for significant minutes, and only seven played more than 12 minutes. In contrast, Missouri had 10 players play over 12 minutes.
Even still, Iowa State came into the game at 14-5, and the Cyclones had played very competitive basketball. Their biggest margin of defeat had been by nine in overtime at Oklahoma State. They only lost to Kansas by five. Missouri rolled to it fourth-biggest margin of victory ever against the Cyclones.
The good feelings and momentum from the big win perhaps couldn’t have come at a better time for the Tigers, who now enter arguably the toughest four-game stretch of their conference schedule. The Tigers play at Texas on Saturday, then at Oklahoma State, Colorado at home and at Kansas. After a 1-2 start to Big 12 play, the Tigers have won two straight home games. But this upcoming four-game stretch includes three road games, two of which are at the top two teams in the Big 12 standings, Texas and Kansas. Here’s a quick look at these four games:
At Texas, 8 p.m. Saturday (ESPNU): Missouri has won three straight over Texas, although the Big 12-leading Longhorns are hot right now, winning at Kansas last Saturday, snapping the Jayhawks’ 69-game home winning streak.
At Oklahoma State, 8 p.m. Feb. 2 (ESPN2): Missouri is 2-0 under coach Mike Anderson at Oklahoma State. The Cowboys are in the middle of the Big 12 pack, and their ancient Gallagher-Iba Arena can be a daunting place to play.
Home vs. Colorado, 6:30 p.m. Feb. 5: Missouri will have a chance for some revenge on the Buffaloes for the loss in Boulder. Colorado will have Missouri’s full attention this time.
At Kansas, 8 p.m. Feb. 7 (ESPN): Big Monday. The rivalry game. At historic Allen Fieldhouse, where Kansas is 113-8 in Big 12 games through last Saturday. Missouri hasn’t won there since 1999, Norm Stewart’s last year coaching the Tigers. Kansas has another great team, but even the possibility of winning there will have Tiger fans excited.
But first, the big game at Texas. The Longhorns defeated Texas A&M and Kansas last week, about as outstanding a week as one can have in the Big 12. But Missouri has a good recent history against the Longhorns, and Texas’ 15 turnovers against Kansas should get the Tigers’ attention. If Missouri can win the turnover battle and get 10 or more three-pointers, the upset could happen, launching Mizzou back into the Big 12 title race.